Throughout history men and women have fought for their right to express themselves. many were imprisoned for their controversial writing or art. During the Nazi regime there were regular book and art burnings if the message was not aligned with the Reich - Gide, Hugo, Kafka, DH Lawrence and James Joyce were all condemned.
But that was then and this is now. Or so we thought.
For we took if for granted that we lived in an age of absolute freedom - to say what we want whenever. Hate something tweet it, love it, blog it. Have a griped about it, comment on it. Our opinions fill the pages, column inches and airways of media. They are more important than any factual report.
It is what we have fought for, during the French Revolution, 1st and 2nd World War, against communism, and fanaticism.
But yesterday the clock was reset and we were plunged back into the dark ages where barbarians punish the innocent in order to silence them.
The haunting rattle of gunfire drowned out art for one split second and it took the lives of its creators. Yet a moment later like a Phoenix rising from the flames words became the weapon that comforted and then laughed away the tears of such a tragedy. Countless images, quotes were shared and reshared, binding people and countries together. The satirists of Charlie Hebdo left their greatest legacy - laughter, intelligence and truth. Satire won, yet again.
I am a writer and I can't imagine what it would be like, not to be able to say what I thought. I have had judgement and criticism from rightwing traditionalists in the US when I wrote about my miscarriage. But they were mere comments I could ignore. Sadly many countries still have censorship and unfair measures if you don't tow the party line. Women are not allowed to publish works, certain religions are banned and some ideologies punished by death penalty.
We have not fought, built, evolved to now surrender to such bullying. All artists across time have critiqued elements of society. That is art, it is an expression of the zeitgeist. Dali, Picasso, Michelangelo, Dada, Hockney, Warhol all did it.
The 12 people that died this week were not just heroes, they were martyrs. They gave up their lives in the name of freedom of speech. It is for this reason that January 7th must be remembered as a day of enlightenment once the pain and grief ebb away. They have shown the world that no amount of bullets can take away one's thought, one's creative expression. The pencil may have been broken, but it was sharpened and it will continue writing away our fears, pain, hopes and feelings until the end of time.Suggest a correction